‘My Week With Marilyn’ Review

Published 3 years ago by , Updated December 12th, 2014 at 9:33 pm,

Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn Review My Week With Marilyn Review

One standout performance can carry a movie, and Michelle Williams makes My Week with Marilyn worth the while.

Marilyn Monroe is forever immortalized as a 20th century American sex symbol, but outside of the late actress/singer/model’s most devoted circle of worshipers, many people only know the image of Marilyn, rather than the complicated realities of the woman behind the persona.

 My Week with Marilyn attempts to pull back the curtain and offer a more intimate look at the woman (rather than the icon) who was Marilyn Monroe – but is this exploration of a small moment in Monroe’s brief-but-epic lifetime enough to carry a movie? And is star Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine) able to convey both the public and private sides of Marilyn in a way that is captivating and interesting?

The film is an adaption of late writer Colin Clark’s books “My Week with Marilyn” and “The Prince, the Showgirl and Me,” which chronicled his own supposed encounter with Monroe during the production of Sir Laurence Olivier’s 1957 film, The Prince and the Showgirl. Like the source material that inspired it, My Week with Marilyn is told from Clark’s perspective, starting from when he was a young man from a prestigious English family, venturing out into the world to make his way. Colin (played by Black Death star Eddie Redmayne) is enamored with the notion of the motion picture business, so he boldly crashes the doors of Laurence Olivier’s production company, refusing to take “no” for an answer, until he finally proves himself worthy to the esteemed actor (deftly played by Kenneth Branagh) and lands himself a job.

As fortune would have it, Colin’s first gig is serving as third assistant director (read: errand boy) on Olivier’s new film, which stars none other than Marilyn Monroe (Williams). Colin is as starry-eyed as everyone else when Monroe first arrives – but that allure is quickly extinguished for many of the cast and crew (especially Olivier), as it becomes apparent that Marilyn is highly eccentric, unstable, unreliable, and generally difficult to work with. Colin, however, still loves the beauty queen, no matter how damaged she may be.

Thanks to some chance happenings, Colin eventually makes it onto Marilyn’s radar and becomes her close confidant and supporter. But as Marilyn’s manager, Milton Greene (Dominic Cooper), warns the young man at one point: picking up and discarding men like play things is what Marilyn Monroe does best.

Eddie Redmayne in My Week with Marilyn My Week With Marilyn Review

Eddie Redmayne in ‘My Week with Marilyn’

Even though My Week with Marilyn boasts a cast of highly talented performers playing some iconic celebrities – Branagh as Olivier, Julia Ormond as his wife/stage actress Vivien Leigh, Dougray Scott as American playwright Arthur Miller, Judy Dench as elderly starlet Dame Sybil Thorndike (to name but a few) – by and large, the film is a standard, by-the-numbers memoir. There are also many traces of screenwriter Adrian Hodges’ extensive TV experience noticeable in the almost episodic way the film hops from moment to moment, with the only real connective tissue being Colin’s (at times contrived) observations and narration. The film offers little depth or thematic richness, other than to remind us that Marilyn Monroe was a complicated lady.

Similarly, longtime TV director Simon Curtis manages this big-screen project with a competent hand, and arguably makes art out of the film’s standout section (involving Marilyn and Colin’s stolen day together). It’s a sequence of surreally beautiful filmmaking, with the two leads framed in natural light against plush English landscapes (shots that Terrence Malick would almost certainly applaud). Curtis also manages to faithfully recreate some of the more iconic moments from The Prince and the Showgirl – but other than the nods to history, and some brief moments of visual art, the style and structure of the film are pretty standard as well.

What elevates My Week with Marilyn above the average memoir film, however, is the performance of Michelle Williams, who continues to quietly and succinctly prove that she is one of the best actresses of her generation. Williams accomplishes what few could hope to: she is able to emulate the onscreen radiance and star power of Marilyn Monroe during those movie-in-movie recreations of The Prince and the Showgirl. From appearance to attitude to mannerisms, it’s easy to buy Williams as a world-renowned sex symbol.

Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn My Week With Marilyn Review

Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe

In the moments when Marilyn is not in front of the cameras, Williams digs even deeper and gives us a woman who is, at any given moment, a volatile combination of glamour, vulnerability and impenetrable mystery. It’s hard to be certain what is truly going behind those big eyes and that perfect smile; whether Marilyn’s “dumb blonde” persona is just the cover for a cunning manipulator, an insecure wreck – fame’s whore, its prisoner, or perhaps some alternating combination of all these things. Marilyn ultimately disappears from the film leaving behind as many questions as insights; it’s what simultaneously makes Williams’ performance so great, but the film as a whole only slightly above average.

As stated, My Week with Marilyn succeeds only in reminding us that behind the veil of celebrity are people as complicated as any of us. While it is a good notion to remember, it doesn’t really make for much of a rich, informative or wholly satisfying cinematic experience.  The moments where Williams is front and center onscreen are something special; when she is offscreen, and the focus turns to the Colin or the other supporting character and subplots, the film quickly loses steam.

Thankfully, one standout performance can carry a movie, and Michelle Williams makes My Week with Marilyn worth the while.

My Week with Marilyn is currently playing in theaters.

Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5
(Very Good)

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  1. I was wondering when you guys would post a review of this.

    I loved it, personally…Although, as my girlfriend said, “It was really good, but it’s not something I’ll remember in a year.” I wholeheartedly agree.

    It did a great job of studying the intellectual Norma Jeane Baker hiding behind the mask of ditzy blond bombshell Marilyn Monroe.

  2. Please she most certainly is not in the best actress category and was never deserving of any recognition excuse me. I seriously doubt that Marilyn Monroe enjoys having a female drone as the best that hollywood could do
    for this movie.

      • I think you should add “in my opinion” mate, Marilyn was a good actress. Unlike most of the throw away talentless drones we have nowadays, she has stood the test of time. How many actresses have done that over the years? What a stupid and crass review. Actually it wasn’t review it sounded more like a rant from a bitchy old queen.

  3. Eddie Redmayne is a very talented and attractive actor. He is the character that gave this movie it’s appeal not her.

  4. I seen this on Monday just because of Michelle Williams. She nailed it like the review says. The film it self is nothing to jump up and down about, but Williams makes it worth checking out. What a talent.

  5. Eddie Redmayne is the heart of this movie. Michelle is a low soul to begin with. She can’t sparkle
    in any acting role. Michelle depends on Eddie’s character to be considered at all.

    • Well someone must hate Michelle Williams enough to post 4 times about their hatred.

      • I don’t give a crap about your obnoxious comments Jose. I post like a true critic would. I heard Michelle used to be quite rude especially while she dated Heath Ledger.

        • Speaking of obnoxious.

          • I guess destroying another human being who was on his way to becoming the most loved and famous
            actor of his generation is ok with you?
            Heath Ledger lost everything because of her. Michelle is not an actress. She had to use someone else’s ladder because she never had a ladder of her own to begin with.

  6. Havent seen the movie yet and Michelle Williams might be a good actress but shes no Marilyn Monroe( at least not looks wise). Ive never heard Michelle williams and Sex symbol in the same sentence before either lol. And she has a lonng way to go before being considered one of the greatest actors of her generation. To me she hasnt been relevant since Dawsons Creek and Shes more known for being Heath Ledgers baby mother. No hate I just dont think she has earned even a nomination as one of the best actors of her generation.

    • 2 Oscar Nomination

      2 Golden Globe Nominations

      Many smaller award wins and many more nominations.

      This stuff is easy to look up on IMDb. If you think she hasn’t been relevant since ‘Dawson’s Creek’ you haven’t been paying attention since ‘Dawson’s Creek’.

      • Michelle Williams is just such a success isn’t she. Attaching herself to Heath Ledger got her some oscar attention didn’t it. The marriage trap didn’t work for her because he just could not settle for someone lower than himself.

  7. I’ve never understood why Monroe was considered a great actress. She had one basic character that she played in pretty much every role. Dumb blond bimbo. That was it. I realize she was typecast but even the most typecast actresses managed to play something different a time or two but Monroe never did.

    • Monroe is considered a great actress because her entire public life was a role that she played masterfully.

  8. Niagra proved that Marilyn Monroe could be a dramatic actress and not just a sexy woman.
    She was very talented in that movie.

      • I love all of Marilyn Monroe’s Films. When did I say I liked only that one movie. Michelle is a person of low
        character and the public deserved an actress with a personality that was made for this once in a lifetime movie at the box office.

  9. Nice review kofi

  10. I am really looking forward to seeing this, in spite of Mr. Drone’s drone.

  11. I’m wondering if I should see this, I mean I’ve been hearing great stuff about Michele williams (who should’ve won the Oscar las year for Blue Valentine), but most of the reviews seem to be saying “Michelle Williams is Fantastic! The rest of the movie is forgettable, but Michelle williams is fantastic!!!!!!”. When I go to see a movie I want to see it expecting the whole movie to be good, not just one small portion of it that everyone says carries the whole movie. So I have my doubts.

  12. Well, I saw Crazy Heart just to see the performance of Jeff Bridges and I am glad that I did .
    As for this film ,
    I liked it as about as much as Kofi did .
    Michelle was good, the same can be said for a lot of the supporting players.
    I really Liked Judi Dench in this.
    Not bad for an afternoons entertainment.
    I wish Michelle luck with Awards Seeason.

  13. You two got this totally wrong. Do you honestly believe that we as an audience are dumb enough to believe this is a definitive VERSION of MM? Of-course not! NO ONE, not even the two of you, me or anyone else who wasn’t intimately involved in the real MM’s life could know who she really was. You can’t ever really know someone. This movie isn’t really about M. It’s an interpretation. It’s a version. It’s really about the process.
    I love you guys to death, but you got this one wrong. Williams deserves an Oscar nod at the very least, because what she did as an Actor is nothing short of genius.

    • Excuse me but this movie is not academy award material with this actress in it. What don’t you understand about
      My Week With Marilyn? It’s based on a time in Marilyn Monroe’s life that we never heard about involving her
      relationship with Colin Clark. He explains the time he spent with her. This movie lost all of it’s potential because
      of the main actress that appeared so fake and rehearsed in it.

  14. Honestly I posted just to ask this question to Mr. Drones: I assume your hate for Williams stems from the crush you had on Monroe as a child and now you won’t steal for second best, huh? That is the only reason I could see the need to clutter, no spam, the comments. Dude do yourself a favor and get a life, and a girlfriend. And if you have a girlfriend spend more time with her. You are obviously obsessing about this way too much. She is an actor, her life is supposed to be controversy. It’s kinda what they do.

    Now for the movie: I liked it. It was better then most of the movies out there right now. Random to come out now, though, but not as random as the Muppets. And Williams had to be my FAVORITE actor of the year, though I have to admit she reminded me more of Annie then Monroe.

    • The only one who should get a life is you. The concept for a movie like this is a very positive one for all people to enjoy but that is exactly why the role should have gone to a deserving and talented actress. When will there ever be another Marilyn Monroe biography at the box office.

  15. um ok so you guys are all talking about marylin and crap, but seriously, not one mention of emma watson? she is the only reason to see this movie!!! seriously she needs to be recognized, she is amazing! better than michelle!!! why has no one else commented on her, she is the life of the movie! my heart goes out to ya em, good luck at the oscars!!

  16. Williams Drone whoah you stole the show here! Good one! I imagine you as being 5 feet tall and smelling bad.

    • You are quite articulate when it comes to describing yourself. Your comments prove what a disgusting and gross person you must be. People are supposed to give their opinions about this movie and the actors in it. You don’t know me so how can you make such absurd comments. Congratulations on making a jerk out of yourself.

    • Whose opinion can you not respect? Everyone’s?
      And the word you wanted is stature, not “statue.”

    • I meant to say the week that Colin CLAIMS he had a relationship with her was not true.

  17. “Colin Clark made all of this up after Marilyn Monroe died. I just found the truth from people who were on the set that week with Marilyn.”

    Seriously? How many people that worked on The Prince and the Showgirl are still alive? Of those, how many do you have access to? But the big question is, how would they know? How can you or they prove a negative?

    “She was pregnant with Arthur Miller’s child while she filmed this movie…”

    What does that have to do with anything? Monroe didn’t find out she was pregnant until filming was complete, and she was back in the US. Tony Curtis later claimed the he was the “cause” of Monroe’s pregnancy.

    None the less, how does her pregnancy impact the truth of whether these events took place or not?

  18. Fabulous. Michelle Williams should win an oscar. Everyone was wonderful . But Michelle spectacular.

  19. I’m going to see film this evening, I would wait til afterward to post but I need to give my 2 cents about the subject matter. I’m perhaps the biggest Marilyn Monroe fan in the world! No one has ever come close to the effect she’s had on the screen or even in photographs. She was truly genius. Re-inventing herself more times than Madonna. (who’s lived a whole lot longer) I’ll have trouble accepting anyone playing such an iconic personality but I’m going to try to look at film as a tribute to a few days in the life of a legendary goddess.

  20. Michelle Williams’ performance was pretty spectacular, but I can’t figure out whether or not it’s because she was captivating or the woman she was embodying was. Either way, as others have said, it’s her performance alone that makes going to see this movie not a complete waste of time. If you are even slightly familiar with Marilyn’s reputation – charming but troubled – then for you this movie will have no real plot, no climax, nothing that provokes thought. It almost felt like this movie stuck too much to a plain, boring account of a mediocre week between an average joe and a glamorous superstar that consisted of no real affair,no sex, and no passion. What would have made this movie interesting would have been to add fiction to it, a la Inglourious Basterds. People want to be excited by the mystique of Marilyn, not bored to death by the anticlimactic nature of this narrative.

  21. This film is based on a totally fabricated story. The author was asked to spice up the rerelease of his original book, with a so called hinted at affair that never happened. The original book never mentions an affair. And the really sad thing is that a lot of gullible fans believe it as fact. It’s almost as bad as that woeful mini series anmd book Blonde. At least that book was released as ‘fiction’. Here an insipid plain looking actress dresses up as our greatest sex symbol, and proves no one can play Marilyn.
    It amazes me that almost every reviewer except Liz Smith, who actually knew Marilyn, raves about this film, and believes it happened. Why didn’t her estate try to stop this rubbish from being filmed.

    • I was one of the fans that believed it was true until I started searching for answers and found the TRUTH.
      How awful that Michelle Williams was nominated for this GARBAGE and shame on Colin Clark for allowing this movie to be served as something the public should believe. If I were Michelle I would be worried about what Marilyn thinks of her. We are all going to be there someday and Michelle will be told.

  22. Have you ever gone to sea world? If you sit

    up front when the whale splashes you get all wet.

  23. It seems to me the producers of this picture could have tried a little harder to make the main actress look more like Monroe. Williams wasn’t in the least luminous, nor were her eyebrows as lovely and arched as Marilyn’s– Williams actually looked a little dumpy in the face, there wasn’t the bone definition that Marilyn had; and the thickish, froggie-like throat (Marilyn’s throat was so fragile looking and gorgeous) was very distracting and off-putting. Williams just didn’t have it up top either; Marilyn’s assets in that dept. should have been much more carefully emulated. Just seems like they could have, and should have, done a much better job. Nomination for best actress? Sorry, but that was just silly. Or perhaps an example of corruption in the nomination process of the academy awards– someone was trying to get some money back in publicity for this movie. And the little sheep just follow the dictates of a few critics for hire.
    Marilyn, I write this just as the clock nears the stroke of midnight on the night of August 4th, 50 years almost to the minute of your death. You rest easy darling; no one will ever come close to your miraculous, shimmering beauty and your eternal onscreen fascination. You are the most beautiful woman who ever lived.

    • Beautiful & spot on review Parasvati!! Wonderfully put!!